- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000

There are 852 judges who preside in the nation's federal courts. Over the past 20 years, there have been nearly 1,000 appointments to the federal judiciary. But Bill Clinton is the only president during the past two decades who has used his power to make a recess appointment to the federal bench. On Wednesday, Mr. Clinton, taking advantage of the congressional recess, bypassed the U.S. Senate and appointed Roger Gregory to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
In appointing Mr. Gregory, who will become the first black judge to serve on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court, Mr. Clinton declared that he was "compelled by the facts and history" to "remedy an injustice" that has "plagued the 4th Circuit" for "too long." Compelled by history? To remedy an injustice? That has too long plagued plagued? the appellate court responsible for Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas? It has been well-known for years that Mr. Clinton long ago became obsessed with his legacy, but his rhetoric suggests that he somehow fancies himself in the presidential company of Abraham Lincoln. In Mr. Clinton's mind, history will record that Lincoln freed the slaves and that he remedied a racial injustice plaguing plaguing the federal court system. Suffice it to say: As armchair historians, editors here have gotten to know a little about Abraham Lincoln. And Bill Clinton is no Abraham Lincoln.
The real reason behind the first judicial recess appointment in 20 years can be found in the middle of a New York Times story reporting the act. "White House officials and other Democrats said they thought Mr. Clinton's action was especially politically astute," the Times faithfully, and admirably, reported, "because it could put the Republicans on the defensive on the issue of race as President-elect George W. Bush tries to put together a new administration." How utterly insulting it is to both Mr. Bush and his appointees, including the likes of Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell and National Security Adviser-designate Condoleezza Rice, to be forced to "measure down" to the standards of the Clinton-Gore bean counters who have engaged themselves in a racial spoils system over the past eight years. It's also insulting to Mr. Gregory, whom the Clinton administration obviously regards as a convenient political prop with which to score points against an incoming administration.
Apparently Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other professional racial agitators haven't brewed enough racial tension in the nation's melting pot with their unsubstantiated charges of systematic disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida. To further inflame the situation, Mr. Clinton and his fellow Democrats "have made an intricate plan to press the issue publicly" in January, the Times reports, in order to embarrass Republicans. When the newly elected Congress convenes in January, Mr. Clinton will once again formally nominate Mr. Gregory, whose recess appointment, if he is not confirmed by the Senate, will expire when the next Congress ends its first session late next year.
Mr. Gregory, a Virginian, was first nominated in June. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch rightly accused Mr. Clinton of attempting to circumvent the longtime Senate tradition that permits any senator to block a judicial nominee from his home state. Mr. Hatch has asserted that the seat to which Mr. Gregory has been appointed is a judgeship for North Carolina, which has not had a judge on the circuit since Samuel Ervin III died in September 1999. Previously, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms had blocked efforts by Mr. Clinton to fill a vacancy. Repeating the position of 4th Circuit Court Chief Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, Mr. Helms argued that the court operated smoothly and efficiently with its current complement of judges.
Finally, let there be no doubt that Mr. Clinton's action represents the first salvo in the Democratic Party's despicable efforts to portray as a racist Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft, arguably one of the more honorable members of the Senate the past six years. Mr. Ashcroft, who as governor of Missouri appointed the first black judge to the state court of appeals in Kansas City, earned the enmity of Messrs. Clinton and Jackson last year for opposing the confirmation of a black judge from Missouri. The judge, it's worth noting, was widely opposed by the state's law enforcement officers, who objected, among other things, to his dissent in a death penalty case involving a cop killer.
While decrying "the politics of personal destruction," Mr. Clinton and the Democratic Party never seem to tire of their attempts to destroy honorable men by playing the race card at every opportunity.We welcome your opinions. Please email your letters to the editor to [email protected] All letters may be edited for clarity and length. Please include your name, daytime telephone number, city and state.

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